Research in Chemistry
Research in Chemistry is broadly themed into Molecular Science and Materials Chemistry, comprising the development of synthetic, analytical and computational methods.
The quest to explore the world at the nanoscale and uncover its secrets is a driving force behind many new and fascinating discoveries within the last decade. Special properties are associated with “small” (nanometer sized) materials thus properties can be “tuned” through size control.
It is important that new nanomaterials can be intelligently designed, synthesised and manipulated to achieve their full potential across a range of applications. Research is focused on synthesising, modifying, characterising and testing devices composed of a wide range of nanomaterials (metals, metal oxides, binary and ternary component semiconductors), chemical modification of surfaces so that they can be placed into a range of device architectures and design of new nanomaterials. A significant portion of the research effort has gone into making solution-based nanomaterials for clean and efficient energy conversion (photovoltaics and thermoelectrics for efficient generation), as well as probing their electronic structure and seeing how charges move through such systems.
Other research is focused on the development of the next generation of nanomaterials for drug delivery. The development of advanced drug delivery systems can improve existing drugs’ therapeutic efficacy, alleviating their side effects, and reduce costs. The creation of a new generation of nanomedicines with targeted release properties, is the aim of this research. The strategy is to collectively apply materials chemistry, physical chemistry, analytical chemistry, and medicinal chemistry to precisely control the size, morphology, surface and structure of nanomaterials.
Research in the Institute of Cancer Therapeutics encompasses the development of new cancer medicines from concept to clinic. The emphasis is on drug target interrogation in clinical samples and development of relevant in vitro and in vivo models for lead compound selection and progression. Research covers the three broad stages of cancer medicines development: discovery, pre-clinical evaluation and clinical application.
The medicinal chemistry section comprises a variety of expertise ranging from computer modelling to small and large scale synthesis. Our scientists use their expertise and the latest techniques to synthesise both individual as well as libraries of compounds for biological screening.
Our work is focused on the synthesis and properties of functional polymers. We have good collaborative relationships with large sections of the polymers and biomedical devices industry. Functional polymers are produced using a variety of methods including radical, cationic and ring-opening polymerisations as well as step-growth techniques such as polyurethane synthesis. We also make extensive use of polymerisations in disperse media; such as emulsion polymerisations.
Recently, one of our focuses has been on producing functional hydrogels to support cells for applications in tissue engineering. Here our aim is to control cells as they develop and grow and to examine how the structure of the materials affects performance and cell compatibility. Another strong theme is to use functional polymers to detect pathogens in infective diseases and here we are developing unique medical devices for use at the point of care.
Due to their highly porous nature with large accessible surface area, Metal-organic frameworks (MOFs) are a promising class of materials for various applications, such as gas storage, carbon capture, separation, catalysis, and drug delivery. Our particular interest in this area is in developing MOFs with high stability that can lead to different practical applications.
Biomimetic clusters: Polynuclear cluster complexes are ubiquitous in nature and play key roles in many active centres in different enzymes. We are interested in developing biomimetic complexes for catalytic water-splitting reactions.
Molecule-based magnets: We are interested in synthesis and magnetic studies of polynuclear complexes of paramagnetic metal ions. They often show interesting magnetic properties, and can behave as single-molecule magnets (SMM) depending on the magnetic interaction between different metal ions. SMM is a class of materials, which may lead to development of very high-density data storage devices.
The crystal packing of a molecule determines a wide range of physical properties such as solubility, bioavailability and colour. For example, the effectiveness of a drug is dependent on the crystal form used. As molecules can exist in many different crystal forms (polymorphs, salts, co-crystals), a range of properties is possible for a given system. Research focuses on understanding the molecular level processes that control the crystallisation growth of these different crystals and how to use this knowledge to design and create new materials with desirable properties. This involves a combination of experimental (crystallisation, crystal structure determination, property measurements) and computational studies (calculation of intermolecular interactions, prediction of crystal environment effects, interactions of molecules with crystal surfaces).
As hair grows, it incorporates small molecules such as drugs. Thus analysis of drug location in a hair sample can be used to identify a timeline of drug ingestion. Novel analytical methods for hair analysis have been developed at Bradford using liquid tandem mass spectrometry (LC MS/MS).
LC MS/MS has been successfully used to investigate the final months of a young woman killed by the Inca. The body was discovered in 1999 at the summit of Llullaillaco buried with a rich assortment of offerings. The altitude and low temperatures resulted in immaculate preservation of the body. LC MS/MS analysis showed that alcohol consumption increased rapidly in the last month before death, while coca use increased in her final year peaking at 6 months before her death. (In collaboration with Dr Andrew Wilson, Archaeological Sciences).
Pictured right: Llullaillaco Maiden © Johan Reinhard